Technology seems to move at a faster pace by the day. For many small businesses harnessing the latest technology means the ability to access services previously only accessible for much larger firms. Not only do the latest advances in technology offer this benefit, they can also make life much more straightforward and reduce the workload of those running their own business. Cloud computing is a key tool that offers some basic but essential benefits to small businesses. It’s a tool I’ve been using for a while and it has, on more than one occasion, saved me from some fairly major disasters.
So What Is It?
For those not already in the know, cloud computing uses the internet to access software applications that would, in the past, have been installed on your computer. You can also use cloud computing tools to back up and store data and files via the internet. Hotmail or Gmail are familiar tools to most people – these are essentially the original form of cloud computing. The rapid growth of fixed and mobile broadband and its increasing reliability now means that a whole range of software and applications can be accessed in this manner.
And Why Does It Rock?
Unfortunately, or fortunately, I can give you a personal example from just the last week. While innocently researching on a topic for a set of articles I was the victim of a ‘drive by’ virus attack. The virus was basically designed to disable my computer and then encourage me to buy software to remove said virus. Nice trick. Not so nice if you are facing the sharp end of a deadline and just happen to have pretty much the whole of your business records and files on the computer! However, my files are also backed up on a rather nifty little cloud drive, which meant I was able to switch computers and as the well-known saying goes “Keep Calm and Carry On”. Later in the day when I had the time I was able to restore my ailing computer and remove the culprit. In what could have been a devastating loss of data I actually only lost half an article and one set of edits on another. So, as far I’m concerned, cloud computing rocks.
Don’t Fence Me In
As, like many small businesses, my own is a one person operation, the ability to access this kind of IT back up would have been an impossibility just a few years ago. In fact I’ve only been using it for about six months. The second reason it rocks is that it completely removes the need for me to be in one place in order to complete my work. Armed with a mobile broadband Wi-Fi connection and access to any of my files from anywhere with a computer, I’m free to roam wherever and whenever I want. Full access to my files via the internet does away with the need for flash drives and means that when I get back to the office my own file system is up to date the moment I switch the computer on. This allows me combine the demands of caring for elderly relatives with fulltime work. Not every business person may need to work in this way, but those of us with families of any kind will see the opportunities it can offer.
Online accounting software is the next big investment I’m looking at – although big is probably the wrong word. Cloud solutions for your accounting needs are relatively affordable some from just a few dollars a month. Until now it’s not been absolutely essential, but as the business grows my paper based system is beginning to trouble me – mainly because it’s time consuming and I have to travel 30 miles to get to the accountant when she needs the stuff. With online accounting software not only will my records be available anywhere – I can allow the accountant to access them which saves her time and money for me! I’m going to have to say it again – cloud computing really does rock. If you haven’t tried it for yourself – other than the Hotmail variety – now is very definitely the time and I can strongly recommend it.
Carlo Pandian is a freelance writer and blogs about business, entrepreneurs and technology covering everything from QuickBooks essentials to social media management tools. He loves reading great entrepreneurs biographies and speaking at conferences about how the internet can help small businesses.